Detroit Pistons - Motoring
Last Year’s Record: 53-29 Central Division Champions, 1st Overall Eastern Conference
Key Losses: Chris Webber, Dale Davis, Carlos Delfino
Key Additions: Rodney Stuckey (R), Arron Affalo (R), Jarvis Hayes (FA)
The biggest move for the upcoming season is a change in attitude and approach. In the recent past, there has been an attitude amongst the veteran players that "we have been here before" and a sense of "turning it on" when need be. Team president Joe Dumars has put a stop to that. No more complacency. There needs to be a little urgency in the team. This is something that may happen when your starting unit is intact year in and year out and for the most part, is a plus.
Once Detroit got into the Eastern Conference Finals series with the Cavaliers and got up 2-0, this is when the urgency was needed, to close out a young, hungry team and advance. What once was the Pistons, the Cavaliers had become, the hungry aggressor. The Pistons simply felt that no matter the series score, they would win when the chips were down. It didn’t happen. Dumars has made it perfectly clear that the team is going to infuse the roster with young, hungry talent, and if you are complacent or not performing and playing a sound game, you will sit. Through the draft and free agency, the Pistons have gotten younger and more athletic, and by playoff time, there will be an energy available there has not been in some time. Remember the Bad Boys? Remember The Worm and Spider Salley coming off the pine and energizing the team and the Palace crowd? Although tough to duplicate, the Pistons will have that youth ready and prepared this season.
The strength of the Pistons lies within their continuity, by more specifically, their backcourt. Although starters Rasheed Wallace, Tayshaun Prince, Richard "Rip" Hamilton, and Chancey Billups have been together since the ‘03-’04 season, it is the guards who make this team the yearly contenders they are. There are no better pair at the end of the game in the league. They pass and handle the ball exceptionally well and both shoot lights-out from the stripe, crucial for turning out the lights at the end of the game when teams are fouling to gain possessions. Billups is known in the Motor City as "Mr. Big Shot", which speaks to his clutch shooting. Hamilton has also made his share of big baskets at the buzzer and crucial free throws.
The team is unselfish and each night there are new stars. In today’s age of free agency, the core of this team is intact and enjoy playing together. Depending on each other is second nature and each have won and lost NBA titles together. A run to yet another Eastern Conference Final is on their list, and could be in store.
What now may be the team’s biggest weakness could very well be a strength by mid-season, if not sooner. The bench is going to be comprised of young players who have yet to establish themselves as consistent contributors in the NBA. The time has come and the minutes they play in the exhibition season cannot be undervalued. Forwards Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson have had some seasoning and a taste of what it takes to play in this league. The time is now for these two as the Pistons will also be sorely lacking in the rebounding department. The guards will have to pick up some of that slack as will seldom-used center Nazr Mohammed. Forwards Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess are not strong rebounders. They pick off a few, but the team lacks a bonafide board monster. Where that production is going to come from is unknown.
The Pistons also may have added a pair of stalwarts through the NBA draft in rookie guards Rodney Stuckey (#15 overall, Eastern Washington) and Arron Affalo (#27 UCLA). Both have played well in the Las Vegas Summer League and the exhibition season and have shown both growing pains and confidence gains. Ready or not, here they come as the team is not going to wait long to incorporate them into the rotation along with Maxiell and Johnson.
The team has one goal in mind, as it does every season, and that is the NBA Finals. They are on a remarkable run of success since the 2000-2001 season, the year Joe Dumars assumed control as team president. After a rebuilding year (32-50), the Pistons have won the Central Division title five of the last six season, played in the last five consecutive Eastern Conference Finals, winning the NBA title in 2004, and losing in the Finals in 2005 to the San Antonio Spurs. The task becomes tougher each year to maintain a level of excellence, and Detroit has been up to the task. This season is no different, and at the same time, it could be the most difficult with the improvements made by the Boston Celtics, Orlando Magic, and the usual obstacles such as the Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. Thats not to discount the rest of the conference. The Toronto Raptors are coming off an Atlantic Division title, and New Jersey and Washington both made the playoffs last season and are looking to return.
What Has to Happen
The Pistons have to step up the urgency. There can not be any more "turning it on" when needed. It needs to be "on" from day one. The veterans will have to be a positive influence on the young bench and do it on the fly. The starters can help themselves by helping the young players evolve into future Pistons. Success will not happen this season without solid minutes from the reserves. There are going to be bumps in the road and the team’s record may not be what it was in past seasons. But this is a playoff team and if the exhibition season is any indication, the young players are eager and willing, it is up to the veterans (and coaching staff) to make them able.
Predicted Record: 50-32